Back pain is a common problem that afflicts people of all ages. Those who suffer from it know it can be both unpleasant and debilitating. Back pain can be caused by an accident, extreme physical exertion, or certain medical disorders. Other factors include strain, structural problems, and poor posture. While most people ignore the occasional bouts of back pain, it is advisable to visit a medical professional when it becomes a regular occurrence or when they experience numbness or tingling.
How Does Your Back Work?
- The spine, also known as the backbone or spinal column, is one of the strongest structures of the body, providing us with a great degree of flexibility and strength.
- It comprises 24 bones called vertebrae, stacked one on top of the other. These bones are held together by discs and a network of strong ligaments and muscles. Additional bones in the tailbone at the back's base are fused together but without discs.
- Tiny joints called facets to stem from on either side across the length of the spine.
- The spinal cord connects the brain via the base of the skull and to the rest of the body via nerves (or nerve roots) that run between the spine's bones. The vertebrae protect this cord.
- The spine structures, such as the joints, discs, and ligaments, age as we grow old. So it is normal for your back to stiffen as you age.
What Are the Common Causes And Risk Factors of Back Pain?
Back pain can stem from physical strain or injury, structural problems in the spine, improper movement and posture, and other less common causes.
The most common causes of back pain are strain and injury:
- Strained muscles or ligaments
- A muscle spasm
- Muscle tension
- Injuries, fractures, or falls
- Damaged disks
The following activities can cause strains or spasms:
- Lifting something incorrectly
- Lifting something too heavy
- Making a sudden and awkward movement
The human back is a complicated system of muscles, ligaments, tendons, discs, and bones that support the body and allow us to move. Back discomfort can be caused by problems in any of these components.
- Ruptured discs. Disks cushion each vertebra in the spine. If the disc ruptures, greater pressure is placed on a nerve, resulting in back pain.
- Bulging discs. Like ruptured discs, a bulging disc can strain a nerve more.
- Osteoporosis. Bones, notably the vertebrae of the spine, become brittle and porous, increasing the possibility of compression fractures.
Other structural problems include Sciatica, abnormal spine curvature, etc.
Movement and Posture
Back pain can be caused by certain routine activities or poor posture. Examples include:
- Coughing or sneezing
- Muscle tension
- Bending awkwardly or for long periods
- Pushing, pulling, lifting, or carrying something
- Standing or sitting for long periods
- Straining the neck forward, such as when driving or using a computer
- Driving at length without taking a break, even when not hunched
- Sleeping on a mattress that does not support the body and keep the spine straight
- Adopting a slumped seating position when using a computer.
- Cauda Equina Syndrome. Cauda equina syndrome is caused by a grouping of spinal nerve roots that emerge from the lower end of the spinal cord. Dull pain in the lower back and upper buttocks and numbness in the buttocks, genitalia, and thighs are common symptoms. Bowel and bladder function problems occur from time to time.
- Spinal Cancer. A tumor on the spine may press against a nerve, causing back pain.
- Spinal Infection. A fever and a sore, warm spot on the back could indicate a spinal infection.
Kidney disorders and arthritis can also cause back pain.
The following factors have been related to an increased chance of experiencing back pain:
- Occupational activities
- A sedentary lifestyle
- Poor physical fitness
- Older age
- Obesity and excess weight
- Strenuous physical exercise or work, especially if done incorrectly
- Genetic factors
- Medical conditions such as arthritis and cancer
What are the Symptoms of Back Pain?
Common back pain symptoms include:
- Pain in the back, hands, or legs
The pain usually goes away on its own, but if any of the following symptoms occur, it’s best to visit a doctor right away.
- Weight loss
- Inflammation or swelling on the back
- Persistent back pain was lying down, or resting does not help
- Pain that reaches below the knees
- A recent injury, blow, or trauma to the back
- Urinary incontinence
- Difficulty urinating
- Fecal incontinence, or loss of control over bowel movements
- Numbness around the genitals
- Numbness around the anus
- Numbness around the buttocks
When to See a Doctor?
You should seek medical attention if you have any numbness or tingling, any of the aforementioned alarming symptoms, or are experiencing:
- Pain that does not improve with rest
- Pain after an injury or fall
- Pain with numbness in the legs
- Pain with weakness
- Pain with fever
- Pain with unexplained weight loss
How To Prevent Back Pain?
A strict workout and diet regimen is the best way to avoid back pain. It is an important to inculcate habits of correct movement and posture to ensure it doesn’t become a long-term problem.
Shiatsu. Shiatsu, also known as finger pressure therapy, is a style of massage in which pressure is given along the body's energy pathways. Shiatsu therapists use their fingers, thumbs, and elbows to induce pressure.
Acupuncture. Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese practice. It entails placing small needles into certain body sites. Acupuncture can help the body release endorphins and natural painkillers and stimulate nerve and muscle tissue.
Yoga. Yoga positions, motions, and breathing techniques can aid in the strengthening of back muscles and help improve posture. It is critical to ensure that exercises do not aggravate back pain (consult a healthcare expert before beginning any workout regimen).
Diet. Ensure you get enough Calcium and Vitamin D in your diet, as they are essential for bone health. A healthy diet also aids in weight management.
Standing posture. When standing, make sure your pelvis is in a neutral posture. Stand tall with your head front, your back straight, and your weight properly distributed on your feet.
Sitting posture. A decent working seat should have good back support, armrests, and a swivel base. When sitting, try to maintain your knees and hips level and your feet flat on the floor unless you're using a footstool.
Note that these activities and remedies are for those who want to prevent back pain. Those already experiencing alarming symptoms must visit a doctor right away.